Rogers coach Earl Morris stood at center court only moments after the Rams survived a Division I boys basketball regional final cliffhanger Saturday against Brecksville-Broadview Heights at Savage Arena.
Morris raised his arms above his head and shared an expression of relief after Rogers escaped with a 63-61 overtime victory before a crowd of about 2,000.
“All I know is we’re going to to Columbus,” Morris said as he walked toward several Rams supporters approaching the court to join the celebration.
The Rams wouldn’t be making their second trip to the state tournament in three seasons if not for senior guard-forward DeVonte Pratt coming through in the clutch by scoring six of his 18 points in the overtime period.
Pratt scored the first six points of overtime for Rogers. He made a pair of foul shots and scored on two hard drives to the basket to help the Rams go up 58-55 with less than two minutes to play.
The slight lead was more than enough to have the Bees begin intentionally fouling the Rams as time ticked off the clock. The Rams scored their final five points at the foul line to secure the trip to the state tournament.
“I wanted to put my team on my shoulders, keep scoring, and go hard and hustle,” said Pratt, who also pulled down nine rebounds and dished out a team-high five assists.
Rogers (20-7) will face third-ranked Cincinnati Walnut Hills in a state semifinal game Friday night at the Schottenstein Center.
PHOTO GALLERY: Rogers boys win regional
Rams starting guards Tony Kynard and Clemmye Owens combined for 34 points to help lead Rogers back to the state tournament. Kynard poured in a team-high 20 points, including four 3-pointers, while Owens chipped in with 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Both were starters as sophomores when the Rams advanced to the Division II state semifinals in 2011.
“I’m just happy that we won,” said Kynard, who opened the third quarter with back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Rams a 39-26 lead, their largest of the game. “It went into overtime, but it shouldn’t have went into overtime.
“I thought we were the better team, but we had to come out and play in overtime and show everybody that we were.”
Owens, who made only 4 of 16 shots (2 for 8 from 3-point range), also expressed relief after getting by the Bees (23-4).
“This means a lot because a lot of people said all year that we couldn’t do it,” Owens said.
Bees coach Steve Mehalik thought the play of the Rams’ backcourt was the difference.
“Their guard play was so good,” Mehalik said. “That’s a really good basketball team, and they’re going down to the final four. I’m proud of our guys because there were a couple of times we were just about ready to get knocked out, and then we’d hit a three or make a bucket. I think they were expecting us to get knocked out, and it kind of shocked them.”
Bees forward Mark Chrzanowski led the way with a game-high 23 points and a team-best eight rebounds. Matt Csuhran finished with 16 points, including a 4-for-7 effort from 3-point range.
Tommy Tupa, who was 3 for 4 from the 3-point arc, added nine points in a game where Brecksville-Broadview Heights climbed back from the double-digit deficit and took a 52-51 lead when Chrzanowski scored in the paint with 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Owens had a chance to put the Rams ahead when he was fouled on a shot attempt and went to the free-throw line with 38.5 seconds left. He made only the first of two free throws to tie the score at 52-52.
The Rams came up with the rebound of Owens’ second free throw and held the ball for a final shot attempt with less than five seconds remaining in regulation.
Kynard dribbled the ball at the top of the key as time ticked away before he drove to the left side of the Bees’ zone defense where he launched an off-balance 12-footer that bounced long off the rim into the hands of Rams forward Tribune Dailey, who was positioned on the other side of the rim.
However, Dailey’s short putback glanced off the rim as time expired to send the game into overtime.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.